DENVER – Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio and Sen. Mark Udall ripped Republican Mitt Romney for his controversial comments about Americans who don’t pay taxes, which surfaced in a video Monday.
“You judge a person’s character by what they say in private,” Udall said at a press conference in Sunken Gardens Park. “Mitt Romney has failed the character test.”
Romney, whose campaign was trying to turn the page on a bad week, is on defense again over the candidates remarks at a private fundraiser earlier this year where he told rich donors that 47 percent of the country are people who don’t pay taxes and depend on the government.
“[M]y job is to not worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” Romney said.
The comments are a devastating blow to a campaign already losing ground in the polls and a candidate whose opponent had already been engaged in a messaging war to portray him as an out-of-touch millionaire.
“It’s hard to believe that somebody who wants to be president of all of the people of this country would write off half of them,” Palacio said Tuesday.
Mother Jones, the liberal magazine that published the video on its website Monday, will produce the entire video of Romney’s comments Tuesday, after Romney himself held a hastily arranged press conference in Costa Mesa, Calif. Monday night to acknowledge that his remarks were not “elegantly stated” and actually asked for the full video to be released.
Romney’s campaign continues to work to diffuse the story, adding a 4 p.m. Eastern Time interview with Neil Cavuto on Fox News to the candidate’s schedule, and opening up a fundraiser in Salt Lake City Tuesday afternoon to cameras for the first time.
Already, the comments have touched off a new wave of criticism, not just from Democrats and the Obama campaign, which released a web video showing regular people reacting to the Romney video; but from a chorus of conservatives, many of whom were already dismayed by the Romney campaign’s recent struggles.
The Weekly Standard editor William Kristol was blunt, calling Romney’s comments “stupid and arrogant.”
David Brooks, a conservative columnist for the New York Times, penned a blistering column Tuesday titled “Thurston Howell Romney” in which he states that Romney’s comments reveal he doesn’t really understand America’s “culture” or its “political culture.”
“Romney’s comment is a country-club fantasy,” Brooks writes. “It’s what self-satisfied millionaires say to each other. It reinforces every negative view people have about Romney.
“Personally, I think he’s a kind, decent man who says stupid things because he is pretending to be something he is not — some sort of cartoonish government-hater. But it scarcely matters. He’s running a depressingly inept presidential campaign.”
Other conservatives defended Romney.
“He would say it probably differently today, but it is a significant problem when you have this level of people that don’t pay a significant amount of taxes because they can’t earn a good living,” said Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell on Fox News. “So job creation, economic development through these plans, I think, are exactly the right formula for the country.”
Romney’s statement about the 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay taxes — it’s true that 46.4 percent don’t pay income tax, although most of those people pay payroll taxes — isn’t a new GOP talking point; but the context of a millionaire candidate saying it in private to other wealthy donors makes it all the more damaging.
The video itself is generating so much noise, it’s overshadowing the Romney campaign’s efforts to focus voters on other issues, especially the ongoing unrest in the Islamic world and a report Tuesday that the U.S. government received intelligence warning about the impending attack on the Benghazi, Libya embassy three days before it happened.
On Tuesday, Romney’s campaign went up on the air in Colorado and other states with a new television ad titled “Dear Daughter,” which focuses on how President Obama’s policies are hurting women.
The ad starts with an image of a baby girl in her mother’s arms and a narrator who says:
“Dear Daughter. Welcome to America. Your share of Obama’s debt is over 50 thousand dollars. And it grows every day.”